Thursday, October 22, 2009

Nana's Linguetta di Manzo le Olive - Beef Tongue with Olives

This is the second of the recipes I have of my grandmothers. This dish is excellent. Again, it is written as they were given and that is how I want to keep them. These recipes are really special to me and my family. I do not have a picture of this dish at this time. When I do I will post the recipe again with a picture of the finished dish.

Boil whole tongue in 1 cup white vinegar and 1 cup water. Add whole cloves, stick cinnamon, 1 lemon rind and salt. (Cook about 2 1/2 hours, give or take.) When done, peel, cool and slice.


Chopped parsley, garlic, onion; cook in butter, thicken with flour.

Add broth from tongue, a handful of olives. Add tongue slices and heat slowly.

Nana's Vitello Tonnato - Veal in Tuna Sauce

I actually have two recipes of my grandmothers that she gave to a friend while playing canasta many years ago. My grandmother told her how she prepared the two dishes and she jotted down the instructions on the back of a canasta score. In April of 1977 this friend, Kathie Nissen, sent the recipes to my mother and she passed them on to me. She told my mother in a note which I still have a copy of that she had built quite a reputation as a cook on these recipes and had always managed to evade giving them away. Kathie still had the canasta score that she originally jotted the recipes on. This and the following recipe are exactly as Nana wrote them all those years ago. My notes are in parenthesis. These are Piemontese style preparations.

Tuna Sauce

1 can tuna (packed in oil)

1 can Flat Anchovy (packed in oil)

Juice of 2 lemons

Mayonnaise (homemade or store-bought)

(Nana said to strain ingredients together. I use the blender.) Thicken with mayonnaise to desired consistency. (I also like to add some capers to this sauce.) Serve on boiled veal or beef slices.

Pasta con la Ricotta e Pecorino - Pasta with Ricotta and Pecorino

This pasta dish reflects the simplicity of old peasant cooking, when dishes were prepared simply with whatever ingredients one had on hand. Some of the best ricotta comes from southern Italy. Roman ricotta has a flavorful granular consistency that is often used as a topping for pasta or in the ricotta cake - torte di ricotta. Since we do not have Roman ricotta we rely on the best we can find. Check your local Italian market for fresh whole milk ricotta. If not available to you, buy the best possible brand.

Cook 1 pound penne or shells in a pot of boiling salted water until al dente. While the pasta is cooking, combine 8 ounces whole milk ricotta, 1 cup milk, 2 tablespoons freshly grated pecorino romano (parmiginao if you don;t have pecorino) and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley in a large bowl.

Mix thoroughly with a large spoon until you have a soft loose mixture.. If too thick, add a bit more milk.

Drain pasta and add to the bowl. Mix well and serve at once. This should feed 4 to 6 people.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Brodo di Pollo Casalingo - Homemade Chicken Broth

Poultry and meat broths are essential to cooking many Italian dishes such as risotto, sauces, soups, stews and braised dishes. A favorite cold weather dish in this household is simply brodo with rice or pastini. Making an Italian broth consists of simple ingredients and preparation - meat and scraps from chicken, beef, veal or capon, vegetables, covering with water and simmering slowly on low heat for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. Skimming off the foamy impurities is key to the wonderful flavor.
In a large stock pot or pot put one 3 to 4 pound whole chicken (key for a rich flavorful brodo), around 3 pounds of bones and wings (you can add beef or beef or veal bones and scarps as well, though I tend to use only poultry when making Brodo di Pollo. Toss in a couple of carrots cut into chunks, a couple of celery stalks cut into chunks, a large onion cut into quarters (feel free to toss in some leeks as well though not traditional), and 2 ripe tomatoes. (If you do not have fresh tomatoes, use 2 whole canned tomatoes.
Cover with cold water by two to three inches, place lid on pot askew and bring to a gentle boil by using medium heat.

Reduce the heat to low and skim the foamy impurities from the top of the surface of water. Use a slotted spoon or a skimmer. Simmer 1 1/2 hours.

Remove the whole chicken and set aside. (This is wonderful used for a simple Italian boiled meat dinner. Serve the meat slices with a simple Italian salsa Verde, Mostarda de Cremona or a spicy mustard. The meat can also be used in other dishes not Italian such as enchilada's, served over rice or potatoes with gravy and salads. The uses are endless.) Continue to simmer for another 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Do not salt until the last few minutes of cooking.

Strain broth into bowl/s and place in the refrigerator overnight.

The next day remove the fat from the surface. This gives you basically fat-free broth that is ready to use or freeze.
To Make Brodo di Carne Casalinga - Homemade Beef Broth - Use 4 to 5 pounds of bones and meat scraps from beef and veal. Can also add some chicken meat and scraps. Use the same amounts of vegetables except for tomato, use 1 whole canned otmato or one fresh, and water as in Chicken Broth above and same preparation.

To Make Brodo Vegetale - Vegetable Broth - Use 2 pounds assorted fresh vegetables cut in large pieces, such as leeks, onions, zucchini, peas, asparagus, celery, carrots, spinach and Swiss Chard. Be sure to peel, shell and wash vegetables. Add enough water in a medium pot to cover by 2 to 3 inches. Cook as instructed above bringing to boil, lowering heat to low simmer and skimming foam that comes to the surface. Simmer for about 1 hour. Season with salt; strain, Strain again using a cheesecloth or paper towel lined strainer. Refrigerate for a few days if using soon, or freeze.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Caffe Semifreddo - Coffee Semifreddo

Semifreddo in Italian means semi-frozen. This recipe creates a dessert which is rich, creamy, and packed full of delicious coffee flavor yet it is simple to make. Though it requires some attention, it is only for a short while and done all ahead of time. This is guaranteed to be a showstopper dessert.

Spray a loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray and then line it with plastic wrap, allowing the excess to hang over the ends and sides.
Place 4 ounces of amaretti cookies in the bowl of a food processor and finely grind. Add 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter and process until the crumbs are moistened. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom of the prepared loaf pan. Refrigerate.
Whisk 1/2 sup sugar, 8 egg yolks, 1/3 cup espresso, 2 tablespoons dry marsala and a pinch of salt in a large metal bowl. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (do not allow the bottom of the bowel to touch the water). Whisk the egg mixture until it is thick and creamy and a thermometer inserted into the custard registers 160 degrees F. This process takes around 5 minutes. Set the custard into another bowl of ice to cool completely.
Using an electric mixture, beat 1 cup double (heavy) cream and 1/4 cup of sugar until firm peaks form.

Using a large rubber spatula gently fold the whipped cream into the custard. Spoon the mixture onto the prepared crust.
Fold the overhanging plastic wrap over the custard and freeze until frozen, at least 8 hours and up to 3 days. When ready to serve, unfold the plastic wrap, invert the semifreddo onto a platter and peel off the plastic wrap. Cut the semifreddo into 1-inch or so slices and serve. This will serve 8 people.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Pollo al Forno con Patatine, Pancetta, e Aglione - Roasted Chicken with Potatoes, Pancetta and Herbs

You must believe at this point that all we eat is rich Italian dishes in this house, but that is far from the truth. We eat a lot of chicken usually prepared very low-fat using skinless boneless breasts. However we do adore an outstanding roasted chicken once in a while. To achieve the best results the key is to roast at a high temperature which gives the chicken a crispy skin and a moist meat. The following preparation is a typical dish of Bologna's countryside trattorie that would still be serving traditional dishes of the area. This type of dish brings back memories of my grandmothers cooking.
Cut 1 large (5 to 6 pounds) chicken into 8 serving pieces. Wash and dry with paper towels and place the pieces in a large bowl and add 1/3 cup olive oil (or up to 1/2 per personal taste). In a small bowl combine 2 tablespoons chopped rosemary, 2 tablespoons thyme leaves (traditional you would use 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage, however we are not that crazy about the flavor of sage in this household) and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Add this mixture called aglione in Italian, which is a mixture of chopped herbs with salt to the chicken. Season with salt and pepper. Mix everything well. I find it easiest to use my hands. Cover and refrigerate for a few house. Remove the chicken from the fridge 1/2 hour before roasting.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. when the oven is good and hot, peel 3 large potatoes ( I use red or Idaho mostly) and cut them into 1-inch pieces. Add them to the boil with the chicken and mix well to coat with the herb mixture. Transfer the chicken, potatoes and any herbs and oil left at the bottom of the bowl into a jelly roll pan. This will give you the best browning capability. Place on the middle rack of the oven and roast for about 40 minutes. At this point the chicken and potatoes should be richly browned and crisp, and should stick a bit to the bottom of the pan.
Ass 2 to 3 ounces of pancetta thickly sliced and diced to the pan and stir in. Roast another 3 to 5 minutes longer. Note: To keep aglione - chop all the herbs with the garlic and salt and place in a small airtight container or jar. Be sure to cover tightly and refrigerate up to 2 weeks.
While I am going on about roasting chicken, I will share another favorite version in our house. It isn't Italian however it is incredibly simple and delicious. It produces aromatic and flavorful pan juices which makes a spectacular tasting gravy.

1 - 5 pound whole chicken
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh thyme
1 Meyer lemon, halved
1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 large yellow onion, thickly sliced
1 cup chicken stock
2 tablespoons flour
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out and remove any excess fat and pat the outside dry. Place the chicken in a roasting pan. Salt and pepper the inside of the chicken. Stuff the cavity with the bunch of thyme, both halves of the lemon, and all the garlic. Brush the outside of the chicken with the melted butter and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and tuck the wings tips under the body of the chicken. Scatter the onion slices around the chicken.
Roast the chicken for 1 1/2 hours, or until the juices run clear when you cut between a leg and thigh. Remove to a platter and cover with aluminum foil to rest and prepare gravy if you so wish.
Note: I also add thick slices of potato along with the onions at times. You can use rosemary in place of the thyme, or use a combination of both. When making gravy, I prefer the taste of the thyme alone.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Tagli di Agnello Cotti - Grilled Lamb Chops

Simply marinated and cooked quickly in a skillet, this is a dish full of Italian flavor and a favorite in my house. This dish is a good entertaining entree as well.

You will need:
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 large garlic cloves
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
6 loin lamb chops (each about 3/4 inch thick)

In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, blend all the ingredients except lamb chops to form a paste. Rub the paste over the lamb chops and marinate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Heat a grill pan or a nonstick skillet until almost smoking. Add the chops and sear for 2 minutes on each side. Reduce the heat to medium and cook chops to desired doneness, about 3 minutes longer per side for medium-rare.

Note: You can play with this, using a different combo of herbs and flavored salts. This paste also works wonderfully with a full rack of lamb (just double recipe), or for a leg of lamb (triple recipe).

Penne alla Fornaia - Penne with Tomatoes, Pesto, and Ricotta

If there is one thing that unites Italians everywhere, I would say it is pasta. They are in love with pasta. They argue about it, and they can not let a day go by without it. I love this particular pasta dish best in the summer when there are vine ripen tomatoes and fresh basil in the garden. You can also use imported canned Italian tomatoes (I recommend San Marzano) as you will find below. Finding a good Italian whole milk ricotta is important to the flavor of this sauce as well. Shop your local Italian market or deli for a good Italian ricotta, if not buy the very best brand you can find.

Place 4 cups canned imported tomatoes with their juice through a food mill or strainer to remove seeds.
Heat 2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and add 1/3 large red onion finely diced and 1 garlic clove minced. Cook and stir until onion is soft, 4 to 5 minutes.
Ass 1 cup of dry white wine and cook until the wine is almost all reduced.

Stir in the tomatoes and cook uncovered for 8 to 10 minutes. The sauce will start to reduce and thicken and reduce some.

Add 2 tablespoons pesto and mix in well. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add 3 tablespoons ricotta and mix well with a wooden spoon until it is incorporated completely into the sauce.

While the sauce is cooking, boil penne in a large pot of salted water until tender but al dente.

Drain the penne and add it to the sauce. Mix well.

Serve immediately sprinkled with freshly grated parmigiano.
Note: You can use your favorite recipe for pesto in this recipe or a store-bought pesto though it won't taste as fresh as it will if you make your own. I will add my recipe for pesto soon.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Frittata alle Zucchine e Pecorino - Frittata with Zucchini and Pecorino Cheese

Frittata is something that I remember both Nana and my great-Italian aunts making for an addition to an antipasto course. Thick slices of warm, room temperature or cold frittata along with slices of salami, prosciutto, coppa and other Italian cold cuts, marinated artichoke hearts, and olives. I enjoy frittata for lunch or a light dinner entree as well. Try a fritatta sandwich it will surprise you. I like frittata at room temperature or cold the best.

I do not know how Nana prepared her frittata however it seems to me my great-aunt Josie baked her in the oven, or at least finished it off in the oven. I make it that way and I also make it as in this recipe, cooked totally in a skillet on the stove top.

Heat about 1/3 cup olive oil in an 8-inch non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add 1/2 pound small zucchini sliced into thin rounds, and cook stirring as you do, until the zucchini soften some and become lightly golden, around 5 minutes.

Add i clove garlic finely minced and stir a couple of turns. Beat 3 tablespoons of pecorino and 2 tablespoons minced parsley into 6 beaten eggs in a large bowl. Season with pepper and salt if you think necessary. I usually find the pecorino has enough saltiness in the dish for my taste.

Remove the zucchini from the skillet with a slotted spoon and stir them into the egg mixture. Return the egg mixture to the skillet and cook over medium heat until the bottom of the frittata is set and golden, around 5 minutes or so.

Put a large plate over the skillet and invert the frittata onto the plate. Slide it back into the skillet to cook the other side, Cook until the bottom is lightly browned, around 4 minutes longer.

Slide the frittata onto a serving plate, cut into wedges, and serve warm or at room temperature. This makes enough for 4 as an appetizer, 2 as an entree.